October 7, 2013 … walking on the wild side

Back to earth.

High winds and grey skies suggested that the usual water haunts would not offer the best opportunities. Instead, I went into Wellington, to Upper Cuba Street. This is often referred to as the Bohemian part of Wellington, and is much loved by many of the younger generation, but rarely visited by many of the more conservative persuasion such as me.

Past its best but still loved by some

This building seems unloved, at least on the outside. I should be surprised if it is compliant with earthquake codes.

In some ways, this is a pity as there is some fascinating architecture up there, and an ever diminishing selection of scruffy old buildings unlikely to withstand serious earthquakes. At one stage I worked in an older building in Willeston Street, opposite the big black building on the corner of Willis St and Lambton Quay. Back then the big black building was  hole in the ground and some rusting steel girders. The old CML building, where I worked, had very uneven wooden floors and the kind of toilets where an overhead cistern had a long chain with a wooden knob … and there was no heating. It was the least pleasant working environment I ever had, so forgive me if I don’t get misty eyed over some of our alleged “treasures”.

The former "People's Palace"

In many cities, the Salvation Army maintained a low-cost hotel with a strict prohibition on alcohol

Anyway, back to the top end of town. The first building that grabbed my attention was the CQ hotel on  Cuba Street. Formerly the “People’s Palace” run by the Salvation Army, it was seismically strengthened in 1985 and reborn as the Trekker’s hotel aimed at the backpacker market. Ten years later, despite the earlier rebuild it again fell short of the revised earthquake codes and was rebuilt yet again, to emerge this time as the hotel that is now known as the CQ hotel. Interior photos show that despite the historic facade, it now looks like a comfortable place to stay.

Looking South, up Cuba St

Cuba Street, by the way, is named for one of the settler ships that arrived c 1840

Looking up the street to where Webb Street crosses at the top, most of the buildings are progressively smaller and less impressive, but still much loved by many. The more modern building on the right is the current headquarters of the Salvation Army. Happily New Zealand has not adopted the awful habit of referring to them as “Salvos”.

The former "Le Normandie"

Some of the earliest fine dining in Wellington was here. Think diamonds and furs.

Walking down towards the pedestrian only precinct, the little restaurant that was once “Le Normandie“, and was the most elegant and expensive French restaurant in the city has undergone yet another change of ownership and name to become a steakhouse. At least one website suggests that even this has now closed. I guess times and tastes have changed. It seems to be a fact of  life that restaurants have a lifespan of about five years. It’s a very short time in which to recover the very serious cost outlays of a major refurbishment.

The top end of Cuba Mall

It’s not an area into which I fit comfortably, but it is interesting.

In Cuba Mall itself, there are restaurants and pubs, and New Zealand’s anti-smoking laws  mean that even in unpleasant weather there are people at the outside tables. The mall has a number of places where people pause, meet, talk and go about their business.

The bucket fountain

The upper blue bucket is full and should have tipped into the red bucket below it, but the hing is stiff so it is spilling and the strong northerly ensures as many people get wet as possible

At the very heart of Cuba Mall is the bucket fountain. In theory, water trickles from the top into a bucket. When the water reaches a certain level in each bucket, it tips its load into the bucket below. In due course that too tips and so on. In practice the pivots often bind, buckets sometimes tip and sometimes don’t and the result is gloriously chaotic and results in many unsuspecting tourists getting wet.  Nevertheless it is a much loved feature of the city.

That’s my visit to Cuba St.

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About wysiwygpurple

Retirement suits me well. I spend much of my time out making pictures, or at home organizing and refining my pictures. This blog provides me with a platform from which I can indulge my passion for improving my photography and at the same time analyze my thoughts about what I have seen, where I have been and what is happening in my life. My images set out to be honest, but that does not mean I have not adjusted them. I use software to display what I saw though the viewfinder to best advantage. My preference is for landscape and nature, and is mostly centred around my hometown of Wellington, New Zealand.
This entry was posted in Architecture, Art, Weather, Wellington. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to October 7, 2013 … walking on the wild side

  1. Pamela says:

    Love the buckets,they have been there since I was little and that was a long time ago! Wasnt Le Normandie not Orsinis once up on a time?

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